When it comes to traveling in Israel, most people think of the ancient sites from world religions. But its location in the Middle East gives this top travel destination a diverse climate that lends itself to adventurous sports and activities.
You don’t have to be a professional athlete to enjoy yourself in the country, either. Weather you’re a seasoned adventurer or just want to push outside your comfort zone, these five adventure travel spots will provide a thrill on your vacation to Israel.
Less than two hours drive from the sprawling stone buildings in the holy city of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea is the Judean Desert. The desert is marked by “wadis,” or oases, including Ein Gedi Nature Reserve—a lush spot for hiking and wildlife spotting (keep your eyes out for the Nubian Ibex!). Another top spot in the Judean Desert is Masada—an ancient plateau that was used as a fortress dating back to 37 BC. While you can access the top by cable car, don’t miss the opportunity to hike Masada at sunrise: the views are more than worth the early morning wake up call. Join a tour, which will start up the steep Snake Trail in the dark in order to arrive at the top in time for the sun to reflect off the sea. Bring enough water to get you through the walk, and bring layers that you can shed as the sun comes up. A waistpack should be sufficient for the supplies you need on this short hike.
This coastal city along the Red Sea is often likened to Las Vegas, perhaps for its similar desert location and flashy hotels, but there’s more to Eilat than meets the eye. The sea, which starts as the Gulf of Aqaba, is one of the world’s most unique bodies of water in terms of tropical sea creatures. Here you’ll find species of fish only found within the Red Sea, along with colorful coral. If you’re SCUBA dive certified, head out on an excursion with one of the many dive outfitters in town. Otherwise, borrow a snorkel and admire the bright blue water from the surface.
Not all Eilat adventures are below the sea. Tour operators run trips of the desert via dune buggy, ATV, and camel. Cover your eyes and mouth to avoid getting sand in while traversing the sandy hills surrounding Eilat, and pack a hat in your daypack to protect you from the sun.
Between Beersheba and Eilat lies the Negev Desert, another one of Israel’s desolate regions that also happens to be ideal for adventure sports like hiking and rock climbing. Start at Timna Park, formerly a copper mine, which offers mountain biking and exploration of their rock formations.
Makhtesh Ramon, or the Ramon Crater, is at the peak of Mount Negev and—despite its name—was formed by water erosion over the years rather than a meteor or volcano. In addition to spotting the dozens of species of animals not found elsewhere, adventure seekers can go rappelling down the rock faces for the best views around. Tour operators also offer Jeep tours, off roading, and sandboarding excursions in this area.
The region north of Haifa along the Sea of Galilee is the starting point of the Israel National Trail, a long-distance hike that runs the entire length of the country over 1,000 miles (1609 kilometers). Inspired by the Appalachian Trail in the United States, it was first opened in 1994. The Israel National Trail covers a large amount of diverse landscapes, from the coastal views to the north to the deserts to the south. Travelers can stop at kibbutzes along the way for food or a place to stay. The northern section has the stunning Naftali Ridge, which has views of the Hula Valley, the Golan Heights, and Lebanon beyond. Hikers will also find archaeological sites along the way. You’ll likely want to pack light for this journey with a durable daypack.
This stunning city only an hour north of Tel Aviv is located on the Mediterranean Sea, making it the ideal location for water sports. It’s not uncommon to see the colorful arches of kitesurfers and windsurfers dotting the coastline in this area. You can also surf, scuba dive, sail, and stand up paddleboard with local outfitters. Just make sure to leave your valuables locked up if you leave them while in the water.
If you’re seeking out adventure travel in Israel, be prepared to bring your sense of exploration!
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